I hate starting out blog posts with apologies, but this tweet from Andi (Estella’s Revenge) pretty much sums up life over the last couple of weeks:

I had high hopes for a thoughtful, nuanced post to spark discussion about The Restless Sleep by Stacy Horn, one of the two books we’re discussing during Nonfiction November. Instead, work is crazy and my brain is fried, so I’m just going to talk about why I was excited to read this book then open it up for chatter in the comments.

the restless sleepIf you recall, my fellow Nonfiction November hosts and I offered up four options for the readlong — one chosen by each of us. The Restless Sleep is the book I suggested, so I was definitely excited other people were up for reading it.

The Restless Sleep got on my radar thanks to one of my favorite nonfiction bloggers (who, sadly for me, hasn’t blogged much lately), Sarah from Citizen Reader. Last summer she wrote a post about Stacy Horn, one of her favorite nonfiction writers. Sarah noted, “I am very fond of her books because they cover a wide variety of topics, she takes fact-checking seriously, and her writing is always very, very sincere.”

At Sarah’s suggestion, I found a copy of Horn’s most recent book, Imperfect Harmony, a mix of memoir, history and science that explores why humans love to sing together. I was struck by how wide-ranging the book was, the unique structure, and how deeply personal the subject was for her and the way she approached it. Since I have a soft spot for true time, The Restless Sleep pushed it’s way onto my reading list.

The Restless Sleep, first published in 2005, is an inside look at the Cold Case Squad of the New York City Police Department. The book looks at the history of the squad and the challenges of investigating cold cases while following detectives through three different cold cases. In addition to write about these crimes, Horn explores the intricacies of police bureaucracy, the process of investigations and the personalities of detectives in this squad.

I really love these sorts of outsider/insider stories, where a writer who is new to a topic tries to make it meaningful to other outsiders. And for the most part, I really enjoyed reading this book.

But I don’t want to let my opinion dictate the discussion to much so I’ll just offer up some questions to spark conversation: What did you think of the book? What did you think of Horn’s approach to the subject? How well did she manage to bring all of these threads together? Did this book make you curious about other police groups or about cold cases in general?

Programming Notes

  • Leslie (Regular Rumination) is also writing about The Restless Sleep. You can visit Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books) for posts on Cleopatra: A Life. Just leave links to your post, if you have one, in the comments.
  • Our Nonfiction November Twitter hashtag is #nonficnov. Share posts or chat about the books there too!

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nonfiction november 2014It feels like November is just flying by. I can’t believe it’s already the third week of the month. Next week will be Thanksgiving and the week after that it’s already December. Craziness.

The host for week three of Nonfiction November is Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books), who suggested we look at a topic that is getting a lot of attention in the literary world, diversity. Rebecca asks:

Diversity and Nonfiction: What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to a book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different countries/cultures do you think of as books of diversity?

I thought about some more creative ways to approach this topic, but ultimately I decided to go with the easy way out and treat the prompt like a survey. Here are some unorganized thoughts on diversity in nonfiction.

What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to a book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background?

About a month ago I wrote a post about how one of my goals is to pay better attention to reading more books by authors of color. But I think that’s just one way of thinking about diversity. There’s value in reading books about different cultures or places that are written by white authors, even if their experience in a place is very different from the experience a local to that place might have.

What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction?

I tend to read a lot of books focused on issues in the Middle East. A few that come to mind are The Secretary by Kim Ghattas, The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg, Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni, House of Stone by Anthony Shadid, and Hope Street, Jerusalem by Irris Makler. I’m interested in that area because of the complicated gender dynamics and the role that region plays on the world stage.

What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for?

One area that I don’t read enough about is Africa. I’ve considered several memoirs by African writers – A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah or Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller – but I just don’t tend to pick them up. I would love some other suggestions for nonfiction set in Africa.

What kind of books besides different countries/cultures do you think of as books of diversity?

My first reaction to this question is to assume that diversity has more to do with different countries or cultures than it does with anything else. However, I think there’s value in thinking about diversity a little more broadly, reading about anything that is not familiar or not part of the dominant culture. One of the things that is great about nonfiction is the way it can help us understand lives that are completely unlike our own.

Before I end this post, a little bit of self-promotion: I’d like to suggest a couple of posts I wrote for Book Riot on diversity in nonfiction: 12 Excellent Memoirs by Authors of Color and 12 Excellent True Stories by Authors of Color. I’m proud of those posts, and I think they’re a great resources of you’re looking for some ideas for diverse nonfiction.

Programming Notes

  • Our readalong posts for The Restless Sleep and Cleopatra: A Life will go up on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Follow this link to find out more about the readalongs.
  • Our Nonfiction November Twitter hashtag is #nonficnov. The conversation there is awesome.
  • A big shout out to my co-hosts: Leslie (Regular Rumination), Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books). Rebecca is your host this week so make sure to link up your discussion posts and reviews there. Katie will be hosting week four.

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Currently | The Week I Barely Got Through

November 16, 2014 Currently

Briefly | This week has been… a lot. Between work and the weather, it was one of those weeks I just feel lucky to have gotten through. Everything in my life is behind right now, so apologies for neglecting comments and missing out on most of the second week of Nonfiction November. I’m hoping this week will be better. […]

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‘Lives in Ruins’ and the Secret Worlds of Archaeologists

November 12, 2014 Book Review

The first archaeologist that comes to mind for me is Indiana Jones. The second is Amelia Peabody, the quirky Egyptologist made famous by author Elizabeth Peters. While there are some nuggets of truth about what it means to be an archaeologist in both of those pop culture portrayals, the real lives of the people who […]

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Nonfiction November: Become the Expert (on Football)

November 10, 2014 Communities

Hooray, it’s the second week of Nonfiction November! Your official host this week is Leslie (Regular Rumination), so make sure to link up your posts on her blog. Our topic this week is a repeat from last year and was probably my personal favorite week: Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to […]

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Currently | Winter is Coming

November 9, 2014 Currently

Time and Place | 9 a.m. at my desk Eating and Drinking |  Black tea and a donut (ok… two donuts) Reading | This week was really hectic, mostly because of work and election coverage. After I finished The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg, I had a hard time settling into my next read — especially when I only […]

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Nonfiction November Week 1 Wrap Up

November 7, 2014 Communities

Guys. Guys! We had 54 posts linked up for our first week of Nonfiction November. That is just so cool. I love that there are so many people jazzed about talking about nonfiction. Thank you! One of the common themes I saw among the posts is that people didn’t feel like they were reading enough nonfiction. […]

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Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? (And Other Pressing Questions)

November 5, 2014 Book Review

Last fall, I indulged my occasional soft spot for quirky young adult stories with Warm Bodies, a contemporary retelling of Romeo and Juliet via the love story between a zombie and a human. (SPOILER ALERT) Inexplicably, the love between human Julie and zombie R manages to reverse whatever virus caused the mass zombification in the first […]

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Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

November 3, 2014 Communities

Welcome to the first week of Nonfiction November! I am excited to be your official host this week.  Throughout the month, my co-hosts and I will be reading and writing about nonfiction, and encouraging other readers to join us through a series of post topics and a couple of readalongs. Our topic this week asks you […]

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Currently | Halloween and Birthday Parties

November 2, 2014 Currently

Time and Place | Just time for a quick post today. It’s about 8:30 a.m. and I’m sitting at my dad’s computer at my parents’ house. I’m home this weekend for a training with a youth program I help out with and to celebrate my grandma’s birthday. Eating and Drinking |  Nothing yet, but we have spaghetti and […]

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